The Hospital we had given us was for Belgian Tommies, and called Lamarck, and had been a Convent school before the War. There were fifty beds for “blesses” and fifty for typhoid patients, which at that period no other Hospital in the place would take. It was an extremely virulent type of pneumonic typhoid. These cases were in a building apart from the main Hospital and across the yard. Dominating both buildings was the cathedral of Notre Dame, with its beautiful East window facing our yard.
The top floor of the main building was a priceless room and reserved for us. Curtained off at the far end were the beds of the chauffeurs who had to sleep on the premises while the rest were billeted in the town; the other end resolved itself into a big untidy, but oh so jolly, sitting room. Packing cases were made into seats and piles of extra blankets were covered and made into “tumpties,” while round the stove stood the interminable clothes horses airing the shirts and sheets, etc., which Lieutenant Franklin brooded over with a watchful eye! It was in this room we all congregated at ten o’clock every morning for twenty precious minutes during which we had tea and biscuits, read our letters, swanked to other wards about the bad cases we had got in, and generally talked shop and gossiped. There was an advanced dressing station at Oostkerke where three of the girls worked in turn, and we also took turns to go up to the trenches on the Yser at night, with fresh clothes for the men and bandages and dressings for those who had been wounded.
At one time we were billeted in a fresh house every three nights which, as the reader may imagine in those “moving” times, had its disadvantages. After a time, as a great favour, an empty shop was allowed us as a permanency. It rejoiced in the name of “Le Bon Genie” and was at the corner of a street, the shop window extending along the two sides. It was this “shop window” we used as a dormitory, after pasting the lower panes with brown paper. When they first heard at home that we “slept in a shop window” they were mildly startled. We were so short of beds that the night nurses tumbled into ours as soon as they were vacated in the morning, so there was never much fear of suffering from a damp one.
Our patients were soldiers of the Belgian line and cavalry regiments and at first I was put in a blesse ward. I had originally gone out with the idea of being one of the chauffeurs; but we were so short of nurses that I willingly went into the wards instead, where we worked under trained sisters. The men were so jolly and patient and full of gratitude to the English “Miskes” (which was an affectionate diminutive of “Miss"). It was a sad day when we had to clear the beds to make ready for fresh cases. I remember going down to the Gare Maritime one day before the Hospital ship left for Cherbourg, where they were all taken. Never shall I forget the sight. In those days passenger ships had been